The State of the Game Industry

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The State of the Game Industry

Post  Cdore on Tue Apr 17, 2012 3:57 pm

Yesterday, people were talking about the current state of the game industry. I had some opinions of my own, but I didn't want to jump inbetween the heated debate between a few peers there until things died down. This is my view on things.

Video games are still considered a niche market. It's no different than back when the Atari was ruling the scene. The amount of gamers that play games have inflated with the times, but the proportions of gamers to having gaming as a hobby is roughly still the same. Often I check the amount of units that are sold between then and now, along with reading and observing public data when it comes to the video game industry as it is. The top selling games of this generation are Wii Sports with 76 million units, Call of Duty Black Ops with 25 million units, New Super Mario Bros. with 25 million units, Skyrim with 15 million, Uncharted series with 13 million, and Super Mario Galaxy with 10 million. I'm missing a lot more, but the point of these listings is for comparison. Now let's compare it to the franchise sales of old: Super Mario Bros (40 million), Pokemon Red, Green, and Blue combined (23 million), Sonic the Hedgehog (15 million), Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (17 million), and Super Mario 64 (11 million). As you can see, the top selling games of our time are not so different in sales between times. In fact, Wii Sports differs between all of these games in that it was not targeted at the typical video game hobbyist but to non-gamers instead. This is what also happened with Call of Duty Black Ops. A lot of people who play it are not actually your standard gamer who tries out different games, and likely came from the Halo franchise once it began dying down. Though this is mainly the draw an FPS always had, even back during the Quake/ Unreal Tournament days. This also explains why a game like Goldeneye was a golden egg for a game based off a movie; Rare really put their time into trying a PC genre on a console.

Every other game that is below 10 million units sold, but still managed to be popular, were 3 million to 9 million units. It didn't matter what year the game had come out in, the userbase of video games remained roughly the same in population. We have to put in the fact, also, that there are different gamers with different tastes, so not every gamer is prone to buying every game released, thus why the sales don't reach 10 million or more unless the game appeals to a broader audience. This explains the mindset of a lot of companies these days in trying to grasp more people into their franchise, such as Square with their Final Fantasy series and Assassin Creed. Or appealing to non gamers with things like Wii Sports and the Kinect. Or simply trying to nickel and dime your fanbase, such as DLC being abused by companies such as Activision and EA to hide the fact that they're selling the game for more than $60.

The point is that video games are still hardly considered a public treat. This is why all three consoles make sure they are integrated with the latest social media to appeal to lesser gamers than the hobbyist. I, as a gamer, could care less about netflix being on my console's hub. However, there are people who consider it a luxury, so that's a benefit in the broad view of things. It was also why the PS2 was so popular back then. It was the first console to come with a dvd player, a thing that was becoming desirable at the time for many houses. And thus, this benefited Sony in that the players using it were exposed to their massive library, and had the console live way past its "life." As an entertainment industry, there is only so much you can make in sales. I remember reading one passage that has always stuck with me since I was researching getting into the industry back in high school: "You're not entering this industry to make money." And it's so true. Any person in this industry enters it to make games, not money. Any sane programmer would just go to some IT or Network Administration job at some company and have an easy salary to live on. Instead, they take the risk of lower pay so they can contribute to the industry as a whole. That's why the existence of publishers in the developing process is too deep for this industry. It's screwing the image of video games and throwing costs way of proportion. This is exactly what the game industry tried to do back with cd-based consoles such as Sega CD, integrating movie-like qualities into their games to try to appeal to the masses. When in reality, the very people who managed to grab non-gamers did not need good graphics or great voice acting to sell their game: Wii Sports.

What do I think will change with this current climate of the video game industry? The focus will lower from the publisher to the developer, costs will fall, development will become more streamlined to allow more room for finetuning, and the market will balance itself out until the next fluctuation of AAA companies. I'm not saying that companies like EA and Square will die out. They have good business sense, so they're likely to keep themselves present in the industry, even if they take some profit loss. The point is that the game industry is an entertainment industry. People will rarely be billionaires or millionaires much like actors in the movie industry are. Movies are more linear media, which appeals mostly to non gamers, so profits are always going to be nice for them. It was said at the last meeting that movies are stagnating as well. I actually beg to differ. Teen dramas, love dramas, and comedy romance are still consistent in their sales because they appeal to "non hardcore movie goers." They aren't much of a hit as large movies such as Batman or Twilight, but their presence shows that movies are going nowhere for a very long time.

Will there be another video game crash? No. There are enough gamers who will still play games. Even if non gamers fall out of video games completely, the industry will still live on. We'll still get 10 - 20 million sales with top games. Even if a game only sells 1 million copies, depending on the company, that is good enough for them. For someone like Notch, who sold 5 million copies of his game, that's enough for him to live on for life. There will always be a better company, but don't count out the industry on stagnation just yet.

As one man put it from the movie Jurassic Park:



"Life finds a way."
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Cdore

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Re: The State of the Game Industry

Post  BrailleOperatic on Tue Apr 17, 2012 7:37 pm

Sort of a strange question...

What do you mean by movies are 'a more linear media'? I'm not trying to pick holes or anything, I just don't know quite what you're getting at there.
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Re: The State of the Game Industry

Post  Cdore on Tue Apr 17, 2012 7:47 pm

BrailleOperatic wrote:Sort of a strange question...

What do you mean by movies are 'a more linear media'? I'm not trying to pick holes or anything, I just don't know quite what you're getting at there.
Linear media means that the media, such as the movie, is completely made the way the director wants it to be, from beginning to end. That is the way that the director will make the watchers experience the movie. There's no interactivity that will change the course of the movie, nor a way for any watcher to have differing experiences of the process of watching it. There will be differing opinions of each movie goer to how they "experienced" the film, but all of them experienced it in the same time span as the other.

Video games are a non linear media. That means, each player will go through the game in their own specific way. Although the game would have a orchestrated pathway set out in the game for the player's progression through the story and content, it is by their own free will how they explore that game space. For instance, Super Mario Bros. is simple: go to the right and make it to the end of each level. Some levels have differing paths to that end, each with their own little challenges and rewards. Some people will go through the game completely without losing the flower fire power, showing their experience at platformers. More new platformer players will be having a challenging time getting themselves through each enemy and obstacle, taking one step at a time. Pacing isn't the only difference. There may be a player who wants to collect every coin on the level. Or that player who just wants to get to the end as fast as possible. This is what non linear means. Sandbox games such as Grand Theft Auto and Skyrim are on the spectrum close to "pure non linear", in that the player can play the game forever without ever truly "beating it" in the traditional sense of games. They create their own fun and thus, it becomes a non-linear experience.

I hope that cleared it up for you.
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Re: The State of the Game Industry

Post  BrailleOperatic on Wed Apr 18, 2012 12:49 am

You did tremendously. Thank you very much.
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